Expert view: Should Latvia sell 'EU residence permits'?

Take note – story published 8 years ago

On April 14, the European Union house in Riga played host to a feisty debate, organized by the Latvian Transatlantic Organization (LATO) on the future of Latvia's well-known scheme to offer residence permits to overseas 'investors', primarily in the real estate sector.

Previous versions of the scheme have seen more than 90% of applicants coming from the Russian federation and other CIS countries, raising concerns in some quarters about precisely who is being handed an 'EU residence permit' which in theory at least enables free movement - and a right of abode - throughout the European Union.

On the other hand, at a time of economic hardship, the scheme seems to offer access to substantial cash inflows to stimulate the economy and trade, according to its backers.

The two most voluble participants of the debate were MEP Roberts Zīle of the National Alliance political grouping, and Ralfs Jansons of the SIA Domuss real estate company.

Both were kind enough to share their thoughts with LSM after the debate had concluded.

Jansons did a good job of defending the idea that wealthy individuals should be given Latvian residency in exchange for real estate investments in the country - particularly as he seemed to be the only unambiguously 'pro' voice taking part in the debate.

According to him, Latvia would be foolish to spurn the chance of augmenting the state budget with this fresh revenue stream. 

Ralfs Jansons, SIA Domuss on residence permit scheme
00:00 / 08:13

Zīle, on the other hand, is implacably opposed to proposals currently before Saeima to lower the thresholds required for investors to be eligible for long-term residence permits, arguing that the real benefit to the economy is questionable and that the current geopolitical situation would make such a move extremely risky.

Roberts Zile on proposed changes to Latvia's residence permit scheme
00:00 / 07:57

The debate is sure to continue...

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